By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Troy Vincent’s career and life have come a long way since the Miami Dolphins selected him with the 7th pick in the National Football League (NFL) Draft in 1992.
The former five-time Pro-Bowl cornerback has risen to become the second-in-command for America’s most popular sports league, ranking behind only Commissioner Roger Goodell, which makes it possible that he’ll one day ascend to the top job.
No former player, not even the most popular, have ever risen higher than Vincent in the league’s top office. No African American has ever served as commissioner.
On April 23, Vincent will help Goodell kick off the NFL Draft, which will be conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a moment where we need some semblance of hope in some of our communities, and we are hoping that’s what occurs next week,” stated Vincent, who starred for the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins over a stellar 15-year career.
This year’s draft, which begins with Round 1 at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 23, and concludes with Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday, April 25, marks the first time the process is held exclusively online.
Draft night begins with a Draft-A-Thon fundraiser to benefit those affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic.
The fundraiser will receive heavy promotion throughout the draft and through a multi-person video chat hosted on the NFL’s digital properties and will feature celebrities, football legends, other influencers and health-care workers.
Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders will host the event, and Kevin Hart, Quavo, Toni Harris and Kane Brown will be among the guests, according to the NFL.
Draft-A-Thon will allocate funds to six national charities and their local chapters: the American Red Cross, the CDC Foundation, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army and United Way.
Half of the total money raised will go to the national organizations to be distributed across the country wherever the funds are needed most.
The other half will be directed to local chapters of those organizations as decided by each NFL team.
Before the pandemic, the draft was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas.
“We did a Zoom call with all of the top 30 prospects, something we usually do in person, but these are unprecedented times,” Vincent stated.
“The commissioner and all of us remain completely aware of the reality of what’s going on, and we hope that maybe for one hour or during two or three hours we can provide an alternative, give you a little joy on your television sets.”
He added that the young draftees are understandably excited, but much of that has been tempered.
“They are used to traveling, and we are used to doing this in person, so when they ask questions like when will they be able to meet their teams, we have to tell them that we must stay in compliance with [stay-at-home and social distancing] orders and guidelines,” Vincent stated.
Watching the news can be a bit of a downer, too.
Vincent said in between calls; he is reminded by news reports of the reality of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 36,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
“For us holding the draft, we’ve had to be responsible,” Vincent stated.
Responsibility was something Vincent learned at a young age, and he recalled a stern reminder given to him by his grandmother after the Dolphins drafted him.
“When I did my contract, I was taking care of my grandparents, and I remember being in the car, and the Dolphins offered me more than $1 million,” Vincent recalled.
“My grandmother was sitting in the car next to me, and I told them that the money wasn’t what I was looking for per year. When I hung up the phone, my grandmother told me to pull the car over. She said, ‘I just heard you say no to a couple of million dollars.’”
“She told me how she and my grandfather worked for $1.45 per hour for 30 or 40 years raising my mother and aunts and uncles and how they never wanted for anything. She said she never wanted to hear me turn down that kind of money again. She said, ‘You need to all that man back.’ I did call them back.”
It’s also because of that upbringing that Vincent has been integral in the NFL’s outreach to African Americans.
He’s spearheaded work between the NFL and HBCUs and the league’s social justice platform, which emphasizes education, economic development, and community and police relations.
The platform includes the funding of grass-roots community organizations and establishes a digital learning curriculum for African American history in 175 underserved high schools.
Working with the Players Coalition, an independent 501(c)(3) entity, the NFL formed a joint player-owner committee focused on social justice, which focuses on reducing barriers to opportunity, and prioritizes making improvements in three key areas:
• Education and economic advancement
• Community-police relations
• Criminal justice reform
Additional programs focus on reducing poverty, promoting racial equality and supporting workforce development.
“Every community knows the grassroots organizations in their respective neighborhoods that do the work, the daily hands-on work,” Vincent said.
It’s also been about four years since the NFL started the “Strength of HBCUs, Impacting Prof Football.” Since 1948, which celebrates and honors the historical impact of HBCUs and their players on the game, and to provide career opportunities in the game of football.
Click here for an overview of the various initiatives between the NFL and HBCUs.
“The NFL’s partnership with HBCUs has deep roots in football’s history,” Vincent noted.
“We’re working together to honor the rich history and provide opportunities to students and administrators from these great institutions.”
The NFL’s HBCU program celebrates the history, increases opportunities for HBCU students and athletic administrators, and provides access through career forums, workshops, internships, and other programs.
“It’s really important for us to identify men and women of color, particularly those who are Black, for these efforts,” Vincent noted. “This allows us to deal with Black and Brown people at these historic institutions where there are multiple programs to take advantage of.”
For more about the numerous NFL community initiatives, click here.